cover image A Miracle of Rare Design: A Tragedy of Transcendence

A Miracle of Rare Design: A Tragedy of Transcendence

Mike Resnick, Michael D. Resnick. Tor Books, $21.95 (255pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85484-3

Resnick's Kirinyaga saga polarized readers, who generally found the author's obsessions with African cultures either racist or fascinating. By contrast, this new novel, disappointing despite its clever main conceit, likely will leave most readers indifferent as Resnick moves his focus away from an identifiable subtechnological culture and toward a series of alien worlds. When, in order to observe a forbidden temple ritual, Xavier William Lennox disguises himself as a ``Firefly'' (a member of an alien species that, though vaguely humanoid, has wings and skin that takes on a nocturnal glow), he is discovered, hideously mutilated and swiftly handed back to his own society. Since Lennox is an ``exceptionally willful, stubborn, self-centered man,'' however, when he is offered the opportunity to undergo painful surgery that will reconstruct his body in the image of a Firefly's, in order to become an ambassador to and spy against the aliens, he returns to their planet of Medina. But the conclusion of this particular mission finds Lennox suffering from severe depression, so he allows his body to be reshaped for further missions in increasingly outlandish ways until he gradually sheds his humanity along with his appendages. Resnick's greatest strength has always been his ability to create vivid and imaginative cultures, but here he spends so little time in each of his worlds that they, like his alien Fireflies, seem to flicker only momentarily before fading away. (Dec.)